Wednesday, June 14, 2017
As we wind down our first year of homeschooling, I wanted to just take some time to reflect on this journey. We have come a long way this year but we still have a lot to learn.
There were many reasons why we chose to take our kids out of public school. It was something I had prayed over for over 4 years. M’s seventh grade year was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Back when M was beginning 4th grade, he was placed in a class with a teacher whom we were familiar with. Z had the same teacher 5 years prior. I received a phone call after the very first day of school. The teacher reported that M was very talkative. He was so talkative, in fact, that the teacher felt it necessary to move his desk next to hers, by himself, away from all of the other children. The first day. Then, this came out of her mouth; “I had such high hopes for M, knowing how well behaved Z was.” The very next day, we were making phone calls and sending emails to get M out of that class. We had meetings and they did oblige and move him to another class but that was the first time I threatened to pull him out and homeschool him myself.
Over the years, I’ve watched M go from having lots of great friends to having no friends to having the wrong kind of friends. If you know M, you know that he’s always had trouble with social graces. Kids are much more accepting of differences when they’re young. As they grow, they tend to slowly push kids like M away.
Kids have always been cruel. I remember getting picked on up until about 7th or 8th grade, but I think it’s gotten worse over the years.
M was the type of kid who absolutely needed to have breaks throughout his school day. It would help him decompress and refocus. Unfortunately, M was also the type of kid who lost it nearly every day. I pleaded with teachers to see if there were other ways we could enforce consequences for his actions. We were never able to come up with anything so the behavior continued. I never asked for there to be NO consequences, just different. Clearly, it never helped the negative behavior; it only caused a never-ending cycle.
In fifth grade, kids started calling M a lesbian. Unfortunately, M didn’t come home and ask us what it meant. He looked it up online. Imagine the Google images that popped up. I sobbed when I checked his internet history and saw what my little boys’ eyes had seen.
M stopped getting invited to birthday parties or sleepovers. It would have been fine if he hadn’t known but the kids who he thought were his friends made sure he knew. I stopped having “friend parties” for M for fear that nobody would show up. That’s heartbreaking as a parent.
One night, at sneaker night, M got bullied pretty badly by one single kid. M tried to play basketball with a group of boys and one kid kept knocking him down, laughing at him and really just being a little punk. C was so mad, he called the kids father when they got home. We’ve never done that before but he was fed up.
Seventh grade was the worst. Not a day went by that M didn’t come home with some bullying incident. They literally picked on him for everything. M started school that year with new Nike sneakers. The kids called them “dollar store Nike’s” and picked on them for 3 months straight. M would practically beg us to buy him Jordan’s because that’s what the “cool kids” wore. His Aunt bought him a pair right after I shared this with her. I bought him a second pair for Christmas. Apparently, they weren’t good enough, because the kids called them fake. M would come home and do Google search after Google search on fake Jordan’s and how to tell if yours were real. He grilled us on where we bought them from and how much we paid for them. The kids told him that if they were real, there wouldn’t be a Jordan symbol on the bottom. One pair had it and one pair didn’t. They said the color was off and both pairs were fake. They picked on him because he joined the track team and he was too slow and fat. They picked on him if he got good grades or if he got bad grades. It was never ending. M would come home from school and say “we had an anti-bullying assembly today and we weren’t even out the door of the auditorium and they were already picking on me.”
Sometimes when kids are different, they cling to whoever will be friends with them. That’s what happened with M over the years. He ended up hanging out with kids I wouldn’t necessarily want him to hang out with. What can a parent do while they’re in school, though. We can only control so much. Grades slipped, behavior suffered. Seventh grade was a horror show. A constant struggle. It was the straw.
I don’t think kids should have to tough it out because it will make them stronger in the long run. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes people grow up and suffer all their lives because of the way they got bullied. If you’ve spent 10 or 12 years hearing the same things over and over again, you begin to believe it. Sometimes kids can’t even live through it. Sometimes they take their own lives because of it. It’s easy to say “not my kid,” but how do you know? What if it IS your kid?
What if you need to get hit over the head with a 2x4 to get you to listen? I’m convinced that the reason M’s 7th grade year was so bad was because God had been trying for 4 years to wake me up to his will for our family and I wasn’t listening. It was a scary thing. I pushed it off for selfish reasons. I love my kids but did I really want to spend 24/7 with them? What about MY time? MY money? MY freedom? See a pattern here? Plus, I’ve never felt smart. There’s no way I felt capable of teaching my kids. There are people trained for that purpose.
The week I finally made the decision, I really struggled. I literally went hour by hour changing my mind back and forth. I can’t do this; I’m SO sick of being broke. If we do this, it’s for the long haul. S was only 2 at the time and that meant years and years and years of not working and struggling financially. Then, I HAVE to do this! God will take care of us, He ALWAYS does. Then I worried that they would miss their friends too much. But it’s not like we’re hobbits. They can still get together with their friends for playdates, Church, Sunday school, 4H, family Bible study and youth group. Then I’d think of just how unqualified I was. So unqualified. God’s grace would cover me. Where I’m weak, my husband is strong. All of the negative things I was focusing on were worldly things; things that people say are important. It wasn’t until I started praying a prayer based on 1 Samuel 16:7, that I was able to finally make the decision. It says; But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” In other words, our focus should be on things which God says are important, not what people think are important. I also prayed with Proverbs 22:6 in mind. Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Putting things into perspective with eternity in mind, it was clear.
This year has been difficult. Highly stressful at times. My kids fight like any other siblings. It’s hard to listen to it day in and day out. My kids can be disobedient, like every other kid. It leaves you questioning your parenting skills. It makes you wonder if you’re doing something wrong. There have been times when I’ve wanted to run away and not come back for days. I’ve been impatient and sometimes downright mean. It’s ugly, sometimes. I crave breaks and often feel sorry for myself because we have no money to get away for a couple of days every other month or so. My house suffers. It’s never really cleaned like I’d like it to be. But, there I go again, focusing on worldly things.
All that being said, I have had such peace with this decision and the direction our family is going. I KNOW with all certainty that this is God’s will for us. I know that I’ve focused on M throughout this, but L had his own struggles in public school as well. My kids have learned more, not because I’m a better teacher (by NO means) but because my kids have one on one attention. There’s no missed work because they can’t focus. They take lots of breaks throughout the day and the work just gets done eventually. It’s a completely different lifestyle. Much more laid back. We have so much freedom. If we decide we want to go in the back yard and have a bonfire and roast marshmallows at 8:30 on a school night, we have that freedom because we don’t have to wake up at 6am to get ready for school the next day. We can go away during the week, if we’re able, when it’s cheaper and less busy. We’re able learn with a Biblical worldview which strengthens our faith in God. It’s been amazing learning alongside my kids. All of the things I didn’t learn in, or remember from school, I’m learning now. I started because of bullying and it’s turned into doing what I know will honor and glorify God. I believe it’s the best shot I’ve got at not having my kids walk away from their faith and losing them to an ungodly world. To be able to choose curriculum that’s steeped in Gods word is an amazing blessing. It’s impossible to deny our Creator when you learn science and history and health and English from a Biblical worldview. Ultimately, our biggest prayer for our kids is that they would live to love and serve Christ and love and serve others. Their salvation and their eternity is number one priority. I only wish I could influence more families to take this path so that they could see for themselves the amazing blessing it is.
It’s ugly and beautiful and stressful and amazing and Lord willing, I will never have to give up the right to educate my children. I am blessed beyond measure.
If you are thinking of homeschooling your kids, I would love to talk with you. To encourage you. To pray for you.
*M is my 14 year old 8th grader
*L is my 8 year old 3rd grader
*Z is my 18 year old public high school graduate
*C is my husband
*S is my 3 year old daughter